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What Type Of Gifts Should I Leave In My Will?

Preparing for Death

It’s always nice to leave something behind after you’re gone. Knowing exactly what you should leave behind can be difficult. When it comes to leaving gifts in a will, there are different categories which are pecuniary, specific and residuary.

Here we’ll take a look at what those terms mean and your options when it comes to leaving gifts. We’ll also look at what can and can’t be included.

What gifts should I put in my will?

Pecuniary gifts

This is the type of gift that most people associate with a will. A pecuniary gift is one where you will leave a specific sum of money to a group or individual. In most wills, a person will split the money that they have between family members and friends.

This can be given directly to an individual or placed in trust for them to receive at a later date. To avoid any issues, you should ensure you have enough funds to cover pecuniary gifts. This would also be covered by charity donations through your will.

Specific gifts

Specific gifts relate more closely to specific assets. This is where you will specifically state who should get ownership of your possessions. This could be anything from a car, a coin collection, artwork or even jewellery.

Even if something has little value, it’s a good idea to make it clear in the will who should receive it if it has sentimental value. If you no longer have ownership of the item at the time of your death then this part of the will becomes void and the intended recipient would receive no alternative.

Non-specific gifts

You don’t have to be specific with your gift giving. It could be that you have two children and you want to leave all of your artwork to them. This isn’t specific as it isn’t dictating exactly who should receive what piece and instead you will let them decide between themselves.

There are many reasons to do this but perhaps the most common is to simply state that all of your personal possessions will be left to a specific person. This can be easier than going through everything that you own.

Residuary gifts

When you’re alive, the value of your estate will be constantly changing. Car and house valuations will alter, your cash balance will fluctuate and possessions come and go. Due to this, it’s impossible to make an absolute plan for everything you own.

A residuary gift is essentially everything that’s left after the above gifts have been sorted. This can include any other possessions, money or property. It’s common that the only gift in a will is a residuary estate that is left to a partner, for example.

What should I leave in my will?

How you want to divide up your estate is up to you. Take an art collection, for example. Some may wish to specifically state what person should receive what piece (specific gift), others may leave it up to a collection of people to decide such as children (non-specific gift) whereas others may be happy for it to just become part of the residual estate (residuary gift).

As you can see, there are different ways of dealing with gifts. This can depend on your family dynamic as you may trust one person to distribute everything fairly as they see fit. Specifically gifting everything you own can be exhaustive but some people prefer to do this.

Gifting outside of your will

You may also wish to gift outside of your will. Saying to a child “I want you to have this after I’m gone” can be a simpler way of dealing with your estate without needing to constantly update your will. The problem with this is that it’s not legally valid.

Most families, however, are able to amicably organize everything. When my grandmother died the executor of her will (her daughter) divided up her possessions between the family members and high-value items such as TV’s, furniture and washing machines were given to family members in the most need.

None of this was stated in the will but there was no contesting of it and it was a nice process. This isn’t going to be suitable for everyone and some things need to be mentioned in the will. It’s good to have a think about what you want to be included.

Avoid gift failure

Whatever your wishes, you need them to be clearly detailed in your will with no ambiguity. Your will could say “I leave my car to Dave,” but what if you have two cars and more than one person you were close with is called Dave.

Even language such as “I leave £10,000 to my son and his wife,” could be misinterpreted. Is it £10,000 in total or are they both to receive that amount? Whatever type of gift you’re leaving, make sure it’s going to the right person.

If you leave a gift to someone who has since passed away, that gift will then fall back into the residual estate. If it’s a high-value gift then it may be worth putting a backup beneficiary in your will.

What type of gifts should I leave in my will?

As we've seen here, you can gift anything you want in your will. The amount of detail you go into is up to you. Some are happy to let the executor decides whereas others will have a much more thorough will that lists their wishes. However you decide to do it, make sure your wishes are clearly detailed so there can be no doubt about who will receive the gifts you leave behind.

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